Tyre Nichols Was a Victim of Affirmative Action

When news of the Tyre Nichols beating emerged, I assumed the media was exaggerating, as they have in other high-profile cases involving police. But it turns out to be an absolutely terrible case of abuse. Indeed, much of the CCTV and badge camera footage was hard to watch

From the beginning, the police were unprofessional, overly aggressive, and incandescent with rage. They also were giving Nichols contradictory and ambiguous instructions, like “get on the ground” when he was already on the ground. At one point, two of the cops held his hands while the other punched Nichols in the face, mafia style. The perpetrators looked more like a criminal gang than police in both their tone and in their actions.

Nichols, by contrast appears scared, cooperative, and nonthreatening after being stopped for reckless driving. He soon panicked and briefly escaped, only to be caught and brutally beaten, causing fatal injuries. Some have said he brought it on himself by running, but this is not a capital offense. And, under the circumstances, it is clear that he only ran when a normal person’s instincts of self-preservation would kick in. 

When the news came out that all of the arresting officers were black members of the department’s “Scorpion Unit,” the case did not support the planned media meltdown over race and policing. These stories are periodically amplified nationally in order to inflame race relations, defame police officers in general, and encourage genocidal hatred of white people. 

Instead, we are seeing an example of what the late Lawrence Auster termed the first law of minority-majority relations: the worse a minority group behaves, the more extravagantly and aggressively will the majority be blamed for their bad behavior. A few liberal commentators have tried to do this in this case, saying the killing of Nichols was an example of “white supremacy” and “systemic racism,” but it’s a tough sell. 

That said, there is a kind of systemic racism behind this, and it is the reason most of these unqualified brutes got the job. For decades, in response to public pressure about diversity and discrimination lawsuits, urban police departments across the country have lowered standards, removed fitness tests, relaxed requirements on written tests, and in some cases even hired convicted criminals in order to increase the number of black and female officers. This trend accelerated after the race riots in 2020, as talented and experienced police officers retired or went to more hospitable departments amid the negativity. Departments like Memphis’ further relaxed already-low standards to make up for the shortfalls.

Two of the men who beat Nichols to death were hired in the summer of 2020, which was a particularly difficult time to recruit police. The details of their qualifications when hired are not clear, but it is obvious that the men involved in this beating were all morally unqualified for the job. This is not an entirely new problem, though, as the Memphis Police Department has been burdened by consent decrees and extreme affirmative action for decades, which makes the department inhospitable to people who want to be in an organization that rewards talent and hard work without regard to race. 

Police work is a complex job that requires honesty, courage, and common sense. It is not all brawn, but also brains. In addition to tussling with suspects and shooting guns, one must be able to write reports, act as a frontline social worker, testify in court, deescalate tense situations, and employ investigative skills. 

Rapport with the community is essential to good police work. Thus, including members of minority communities has some obvious benefits, including language familiarity for immigrant groups and establishing trust among black Americans formerly subject to de jure discrimination. 

But affirmative action takes this commonsense concern for representation and rapport to the point of absurdity by insisting that numbers must be lockstep and proportional to the broader population at every level of the job. In the absence of such proportionality, disparities are blamed on “systemic racism,” even though disparate abilities also explain these outcomes. Whether it’s the military, business, or a police department, when diversity becomes the top priority, achievement of the organization’s mission takes a backseat. 

Indeed, the pressure to support diversity has led to mass amnesia about the historical alternatives, like colorblind standards and an organizational commitment to pursue “excellence” and the “most qualified” person for the job. Under the ethos of diversity, companies and organizations hire barely competent mediocrities from favored groups in order to fulfill affirmative action goals. 

While this leads to obvious and predictable problems, there seems to be very little effort to discover the consequences of putting people into roles for which they are not suited, whether it is women in combat or getting rid of all standards demonstrating maturity and decency in the quest to have a diverse police force. 

The few extant studies conducted with any rigor prove my point. You would not know, for example, from the extensive discussions of white racism following the George Floyd incident that black police officers have more use-of-force complaints against them than white officers.

Would these disparities exist without affirmative action? It is doubtful. But we cannot know, because whites and blacks, and men and women must meet wildly different qualifications to enter fields like police work, firefighting, and the military.

In pursuit of diversity, standards have gone out the window. And the people who pay the price are ordinary citizens, who are underserved and sometimes attacked by unqualified police. 

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About Christopher Roach

Christopher Roach is an adjunct fellow of the Center for American Greatness and an attorney in private practice based in Florida. He is a double graduate of the University of Chicago and has previously been published by The Federalist, Takimag, Chronicles, the Washington Legal Foundation, the Marine Corps Gazette, and the Orlando Sentinel. The views presented are solely his own.

Photo: Brittany Murray/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images